The Grinch is Anything But Mean to Local Actors

The Grinch is Anything But Mean to Local Actors

By: Guest Writer, Sharon Wheatley

Booking a long running show in San Diego seems like an oxymoron. Granted, The Grinch comes but once a year, but when it comes, it is a much-needed Christmas bonus to local actors.

Now in its 16th year at The Old Globe Theatre, the cast of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! reads like a who's-who(ville) of local actors, with many actors including a tally sheet of years logged in Whoville. Here is Steve Gunderson's bio as an example: "Steve Gunderson (Old Max) has previously appeared at the Globe in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ('99, '00, '03, '05 and '07-'12)." Mr. Gunderson has an impressive list of other theater and film credits in New York and around the region, but clearly The Grinch with its lengthy rehearsal and performance run, is the mainstay of his acting year.

And he's not the only one. The Old Globe's Grinch has brought Christmas-time employment to hundreds of actors, musicians, and backstage crew.

According to press rep Mike Hausberg, "While I don't know the exact number of different actors who have appeared in the show over the past 16 years, I'd say it has been about 300, over half of them being local children. Twenty young actresses have played Cindy-Lou Who over the years; the best-known is Vanessa Hudgens, who was the first Cindy-Lou and who went on to "High School Musical" fame. Six men have played The Grinch."

The show, which runs for six weeks every November and December, is the cornerstone for the holiday season in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park. The annual Christmas tree lighting in the courtyard of The Old Globe complex attracts a gigantic crowd and serves as the kick off for the season.

The Old Globe has expanded its Grinch-y reach, with productions of the show appearing around the country, including a run on Broadway in 2006 and 2007, a National Tour, and a sit-down company in 2009 at The Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

Keeping the show fresh and updated year to year is important to The Old Globe, and the production has changed over the years. According to Hausberg, there have been a few changes made: "The beloved "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," from the classic TV movie version, was added on the sixth anniversary. For the 10th anniversary in 2007, Jack [O'Brien, the original director] and the original creative team gathered for a two-week workshop to enhance and update the production. The show had opened on Broadway the year prior, and they wanted to adopt some new elements so the different productions would resemble each other and create a cohesive Grinch universe:

1) Fah Who Doraze," from the TV movie, was added as a recurring theme in the show.

2) The Christmas shopping scene had a new song added, "It's the Thought That Counts"

3) Some costume updates, including adding Cindy-Lou Who's nightgown

4) Some dance restaging."

The Old Globe's commitment to The Grinch not only means work for local actors, but a live theater holiday tradition in Balboa Park. For many children in attendance, this was their first live theater experience, with the ushers educating the children to "use the restroom" and "unwrap candy" before the performance started. An usher even ran up the aisle to get a booster chair for a child seated behind a tall adult. The Old Globe's attention to detail and commitment to quality, both onstage and in the audience, will keep The Grinch running for many years to come. Which is music to many local actors' ears!

The annual holiday musical will run Nov. 16 - Dec. 28, 2013.

Photo Credit: Jim Cox

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Sharon Wheatley Sharon Wheatley is a four time Broadway actress, a published author ('Til the Fat Girl Sings Adams Media, 2006) and a mother of two girls. Her family recently moved to Southern California where Sharon is pursuing a career writing for television. Visit her blog at

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